June 5, 1994 was the first time I got to see Venice Beach, California’s own Suicidal Tendencies. At the wholly grown up yet super immature age of 16, S.T. were the opening act on a three band heavyweight bill that included Danzig and Metallica (way before they sold the fuck out.) Though I, along with every other self-respecting metal-head, knew that all Cyco Myko ‘wanted was a Pepsi,’ I wasn’t really aware of the group’s history or shows at that point. Then, they took the stage.
To say they were the best act of the day would be an understatement… This particular show was one of the best performances I have ever seen. The group went off so hard, tearing through their profanity-laced set and whipping up such a frenetic response from the crowd that you were positive someone wasn’t going to walk out of the show. So. Much. Fun!!! I bought 4 of their albums the next day while on my way to see Pink Floyd.
3 decades into their career, way beyond legendary, and still “cyco” after all these years, Suicidal Tendencies just dropped a new record, 13, and are hitting the road again with their groundbreaking sound and style. Expect vicious moshing, flying bodies, and some of the best metal you could ever ask for when you check it out. I got in touch with guitarist Dean Pleasants prior to S.T.’s 4/20 NYC show at Best Buy Theater and 4/21 performance at New England Metal and Hardcore Fest in Worchester, Massachusetts to talk about 13, the group’s storied history, and the state of metal music.
G- Hi there and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today, man! How’s everything going?
D- Pretty good, thank you. Thanks for having me!
G- Not a problem. So, Suicidal Tendencies has been a band for a long, long time, and there’s been a couple of lineup changes over the years. For some of our readers who might not know, I just want to give everyone in the group their shout out. So if you could, let us know who everybody is and what they’re playing these days.
D- Let’s see… You’ve got me on guitar, Dean Pleasants. You’ve got Nico Santore on rhythm, as well. You’ve got Eric Moore on drums…
G- What a beast!
D- Yeah. On the record, we have Steven Bruner, and then we have Tim Robbins who is doing our touring with us. So, Steve has played with us for a long time as our studio bass guy… Just an insane bass player! They call him “Thundercat,” and if you look him up, you’ll see all his solo stuff he’s doing now. He’s been on the road with the (Red Hot) Chili Peppers and stuff like that, so yeah… That’s the lineup right now.
G- Dig that.
D- And Mikey, of course. Cyco Miko at the captain’s chair.
G- Of course. I’ve actually given him the nickname The Very Reverend Cyco Miko for his longevity in the metal scene.
D- (laughing) Yeah.
G- Well, you guys are going to be touring in support of your latest release, 13. It’s 13 songs long, and it’s been 13 years since your last release, so, uhh, what the hell took so long? We’ve been waiting!
D- (laughing) It’s funny when I’ve answered that one. Each time it’s been different in a funny kind of way, but 13 years took… Mainly, it was timing, and I know it sounds funny, but we were really working on a bunch of stuff, and Cyco Miko is very prolific in the studio and with the band, and we like to work on music. We came across just some fantastic music, and we didn’t want to just release it for no reason and not have it heard, or put it up on another compilation, you know? It was time to do another record, and we kept trying to get this record together and fans were ‘What are these guys doing? Wy aren’t they releasing a new record?’
And, you know, Mike was watching the music industry slowly change and all the companies shutting down, and the internet taking over, and he was just really trying to find a way to get us heard, you know? We set up all of our Facebook pages and stuff, and he really planned it out. He’s a planner, you know, and we took our time for a reason. And a little bit was, you know, uncertainty in this thing, you know, and we really wanted to give our all and our best. We didn’t want to put our name on something that wasn’t Suicidal, and I totally understood that.
And there was some frustration, you know, and growing pains through it, but now that it’s out, I’m over the moon and overjoyed about it. It’s finally out! 13 years… it’s kinda fitting that we got the title (laughing).
G- Very true across the board. Now, you’ve played some of the songs live, if I’m correct. I do believe I was sober enough to hear a new jam this summer at Heavy TO… How has the reception been to the new songs, and have you noticed any fan favorites?
D- Yeah the reception has been good. We haven’t done, you know, the other songs yet, because we’re just starting out, but our guitar player tells me that “Smash It” is getting a lot of kind reviews online and stuff. I love ‘em all and I can’t wait to play ‘em. We are working on a specific vibe right now and we’re polishing up the band, and I think, you know, you’ll be really happy to hear them along with the old classics. I just can’t wait for the chance to let ‘em hear it.
G- Neither can I, dude! I can’t wait to see the show. I’ve probably seen the band 10 times thus far since that first time.
D- Yeah I know… You said some really nice things about it. It was really cool!
G- So much fun!
G- So, in terms of the writing process for the record, were you writing a lot of the tracks, or was it kind of a collaborative effort jamming out a lot?
D- Yeah it’s a collaborative effort. We kinda get together and we work out riffs and stuff like that. Mike comes up with the lyrics, and sometimes there’s a riff that somebody does and it carries its own weight, and the rest of the band puts their things on it. But it’s all, you know, the band… Everybody is involved in it, so to speak. I mean, it wouldn’t sound the way it sounds without everybody’s input.
And I think this time, when we recorded, we really took it back to the old school way off doing it… Just letting everybody do what they do best, you know? Let the rhythm guy does his thing, and I did solos, and the bass player did his thing, and it really came across in a really unique way. It really gave it a cool sound, you know?
G- Dig that. That’s excellent!
Now, I wanted to get a little bit serious since we had the situation with Randy Blythe in the Czech Republic and things along those lines… Given the band’s roots and the very nature of the sound, Suicidal Tendencies have had some pretty violent shows in the past, and with everything going on I wanted to ask… Do you still see a lot of violence at your shows, and what do you guys typically do when there is an issue with the crowd/security these days?
D- You know, the past few shows that we’ve done haven’t had any problems. We’ve had some things happen in Europe, you know, with the security and the crowd, and they get a little rough. We just tell them not to do that.
I’ve had incidents a long time ago during Infectious Grooves where we got into problems with the security, you know (laughing). When you’re hitting kids with a flashlight and stuff, you know… C’mon.
But for the most part, we’ve had cool security people. We try to talk to them before if we can and let them know how we get down. It’s like, you know, if a kid’s on stage and he jumps off, leave him alone, you know what I mean?
If there’s something going on in the audience, like a fight, we definitely will cool it down. We’re not going to encourage anybody to kill somebody out their in the audience when they’re just trying to slam and let off some steam, you know what I mean?
G- For sure.
D- So, I mean, we’ve had people jump off the stage and hit the barricade and break a leg and all, you know. My advice to people that do it is just make sure you can clear the barrier, you know?
G- For sure.
D- It gets crazy, you know? You just gotta know what you can do and what you can’t do when you’re in the slam pit, you know?
G- Exactly. I think everybody at this point should know that if you go to a metal show, or particularly a Suicidal Tendencies show, and you’re dancing around, you know what’s coming. So just watch yourself.
Now, you mentioned it in one context a moment ago, but ST has played everywhere in the world at this point, and I wanted to know, in your estimation, how has you reception been in the states, and how does it compare with your performances abroad, both in terms of how you play, the hospitality of where you are, and the audience’s reaction?
D- That’s interesting. I would say the states and Europe are very different. I think it’s just 2 different cultures. Obviously, I love the states. I live here in California and it’s a beautiful place, and we’ve played in Australia and Europe and S. America and Brazil and Chile and Argentina.
The Europeans have a cool thing. They kind of have a festival culture where people announce the festival, and kids buy the tickets, no matter who’s on the festival, months in advance, and they camp out for 3 or 4 days and they watch all the bands. They love music and they’re really into it, and the reception is like, you know, an amazing thing. Like you said, you named a few bands before like Danzig and Metallica, and all these bands go over there and it’s just like it was in the 90’s or whatever… Nothing has changed and they really love music, and generations of new kids get into it.
In the states, I’ve noticed with us, we’ve had a good resurgence of kids, skaters and stuff, who are getting into Suicidal. They get a skateboard and they’re like ‘Whoa!’ The music goes along with it, and maybe they have an older cousin or brother who listens to it, or they see a sticker and are like ‘What’s that?!’ So, that’s been really cool that I’ve noticed in the past. You know, like 14-15 year old kids are interested in, like ‘What’s this about?’ They want to know the history of the band and that’s been really cool in the states… Younger kids getting into real punk, you know, like DRI, and then they get into hardcore and groups that were around before, not just what’s on the radio and what’s new., and what people call punk rock… They want to know where THIS came from.
That’s what I did when I was a kid, you know? I wanted to know who Black Flag was, or who Poison Idea was, or who Ozzy was, you know? So, I know the states… Some places in the states are more, I mean… they just go hard, you know? There’s some places that are just ‘Wow,’ you know? Like NY, we always have a great show in NY. We always have a great show in Boston, and a lot of places, you know? And there are some places that are just into different types of music. But, those are the only differences I see between Europe and the states… The whole festival culture.
G- Right on.
Now, it might be a difficult question for you to answer but I wanted to know… Do you have a favorite song you have ever written with Suicidal Tendencies? Or… it can be off of the new album, and one that just represents what ST to the core in your mind, but if you could only give 1 song to someone who’d never heard of ST before, and I’d want to slap that person at this point, what song would you give them and why?
D- (laughing) Let’s see… If I wanted to give somebody a song off of the new record, and they’d never heard ST before. Hmm… I like ‘em all, and this record is so diverse. If I had to give ‘em one, hmmm… If I could only give ‘em one, I’d give ‘em “Smash It.”
G- Ok, so you’d give them “Smash It,” and how about your favorite song to perform, because when you guys open with “You Can’t Bring Me Down,” it’s fucking on!
D- That is definitely a good point. I was thinking about that song and I was like, you know… “Y.C.B.M.D.” encompasses a huge message from S.T. I think that’s probably one that is my all-time favorites to play and to perform. I think… If it doesn’t get your blood pumping, you’re brain dead, you know? That song is definitely one that, if you’ve never heard the band and heard that… And live. It’s a great live song!
G- Oh yeah.
D- And when it opens up, you know… I know I’m on stage when I hear those first notes.
G- It makes me want to jump off a roof. That’s about all I can say about it.
D- (laughing) Yeah!
G- It’s a wicked one!
So, one last questions for you. I don’t want to take up too much more of your time and again, this is awesome…
D- No problem.
G- But, you have been a professional guitar player for many year, Suicidal Tendencies has been a band for many years, and you guys are still killing it…
D- Thank you.
G- You’re making new fans and keeping the old fans, and I love that. There are a lot of young bands and kids out here that what to do exactly what you’re doing… They want to make it in music, they want to tour, and they want to be a professional musician like yourself.
From all of your experience, what advice can you maybe give some of these kids out here?
D- My advice to the kids is definitely believe in your dream, and it is possible to do what you want to do. The main thing is, you know, you have to stay focused on it, and you have to really understand that if you believe in something, you have to take it the whole way, through the good and the bad.
And I would say don’t listen to what people say when they say “Oh you’ll never do this.” NO… you can make it happen.
G- Right on. Well, that is true, and I just want to say, from the bottom of my heart, I love Suicidal Tendencies and I want to thank you very, very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today.
D- Thank you!
G- Travel safe on tour, and I know you’re gonna go off really hard when you play and we will see you on the run, man! Best of luck with everything!
D- OK. Thanks a lot, man!
G- You too.